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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2011 Oct;32(10):607-16. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Aug 6.

The role of metformin and thiazolidinediones in the regulation of hepatic glucose metabolism and its clinical impact.

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Institute for Clinical Diabetology, German Diabetes Center, D-40225, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Fasting hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) results from elevated endogenous glucose production (EGP), which is mostly due to augmented hepatic gluconeogenesis. Insulin-resistant humans exhibit impaired insulin-dependent suppression of EGP and excessive hepatic lipid storage (steatosis), which relates to abnormal supply of free fatty acids (FFA) and energy metabolism. Only two glucose-lowering drug classes, the biguanide metformin and the thiazolidendiones (TZDs), exert insulin- and glucagon-independent hepatic effects. Preclinical studies suggest that metformin inhibits mitochondrial complex I. TZDs, as peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) γ-agonists, predominantly reduce the flux of FFA and cytokines from adipose tissue to the liver, but could also directly inhibit mitochondrial complex I. Although both metformin and TZDs improve fasting hyperglycemia and EGP in clinical trials, only TZDs decrease steatosis and peripheral insulin resistance. More studies are required to address their effects on hepatocellular energy metabolism with a view to identifying novel targets for the treatment of T2DM.

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